July 18, 2019
Case Study

The Most Popular Articles about Inbound Marketing from MarketingSherpa’s 20 Years of Reporting


Inbound marketing has exploded in recent years, but it is a topic MarketingSherpa has covered since the early days of the internet.

Boost your results with the age-old wisdom from our most popular articles about inbound marketing.

Read on to learn more about competitive analyses, Facebook business accounts, why customers follow brands’ social media accounts and more.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

sherpa 20 yrs of publishing top email posts

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing newsletter. Click to get a free subscription to the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

When I first learned about inbound marketing, it instantly resonated with me. Up until then in my career — while I had inadvertently engaged in inbound tactics by writing email newsletters, case studies, white papers, blog posts, podcasts and the like — my marketing paradigm was centered squarely on interruption-based marketing.

I remember when I got my first print ad in The Wall Street Journal. That was effective (and exciting), but we were essentially borrowing from interest in the venerable, business-focused newspaper.

However, with inbound marketing, we could essentially build our own WSJ (albeit a much smaller and more niche-focused version of it). We could not only sell with marketing and writing but also deliver real value to potential customers that attracts them to a brand and builds a motivated, relevant audience, ultimately leading to impressive margins and conversion rates. Essentially, we could help people — whether they bought or not.

So of the Best of 20 Years at MarketingSherpa articles I’ve written so far (about email marketing and data), this is the article I have been most passionate about.

But enough about me, on to you. We’ve used pageviews as a proxy for the MarketingSherpa inbound marketing reporting you (and your peers) have found most helpful from the past 20 years. And here they are, all still have very relevant lessons to help you improve your inbound marketing today:

How to Write a Competitive Analysis (with 3 free templates)

(May 18, 2012)

Competitive analyses are often focused on products or entire brands.

But have you ever conducted a competitive analysis for your inbound marketing content?

In most industries, content marketing is a fiercely competitive battle. Don’t just assume because your content is “free” potential customers will flock to you. “Switching costs” are non-existent, and unless you keep your brand’s content marketing ahead of the competition, you can quickly lose your audience (or for a startup brand, never gain an audience, to begin with).

And don’t just focus on competitors selling the same product you do. “Sometimes companies will focus too much on reviewing their traditional competitors and forget to frequently monitor search results to see if there are new competitors in the mix or potential new substitutes for your product or service,” Ana Gabriela Paez advises in this blog post.


Social Media Tips: 5 easy steps to set up a Facebook business account

(November 1, 2013)

Social media marketing is an essential part of inbound marketing and a great channel to attract new customers to your brand.

While organic reach has gotten more difficult on Facebook over the years, the social network still has a massive audience and is a great opportunity for new customers to discover your business (or just a way for customers to check up on your business if they’ve discovered it somewhere else).

Rachel Minion provides specific tips in this blog post like “Cover photos are versatile and only limited to your creativity. They can introduce visitors to your page, promote special offers, provide contact information, and most importantly, help you set the tone of your page.”


MarketingSherpa Consumer Purchase Preference Survey: Demographics of customer reasons to follow brands’ social accounts

(November 24, 2015)

While conventional wisdom suggests social media accounts shouldn’t be too promotional, when we surveyed 2,021 consumers about their preferences, they told us the top reason they follow social media accounts is because “I want to get regular coupons/promotions.”

In this article, Dr. Liva LaMontagne breaks down the data for you, sharing demographic differences, “Southerners are more motivated to follow brands because friends, family or colleagues do, while Northeasterners are following brands more to express positive experiences.”


Ecommerce: 10 case studies to help you excel in content marketing, social media and website optimization

(November 26, 2013)

company foldersWith the “Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever you choose to celebrate” shopping season starting as early as October, successful ecommerce companies often get their strategies in place over the summer.

This blog post by Allison Banko is filled with ecommerce ideas to spur your strategies. A few nuggets of wisdom from this blog post include …

“We put time into creating helpful content that helps people either make a buying decision or entertain them,” said Erika Strum, Director of Internet Marketing, Wine Enthusiast Companies. “Even if they aren’t making that purchase in the moment, we feel that they will come back to us as a great source of information.”

 “It makes it easy to bond with people … knowing that we write about things that are so important and we care passionately about, makes [writing email content] pretty easy to do,” said Paul Cannella, Owner, Poopbags.com.

“In order to tackle this and do all this, we had to think just like a customer would,” Company Folders CEO Vladimir Gendelman said. “A redesign is not just like making [the website] look pretty. It is about making it extremely easy for [website] function.”

 “A lot of people don’t realize that we have same-day delivery, even though it is not something new for us, so we realize that we will need to do even more to promote it,” said Kaitlin Reiss, Vice President of Ecommerce, Edible Arrangements.


Inbound Marketing: 450% average ROI from Facebook advertising and organic content effort

(February 5, 2015)

This case study by Erin Hogg with wellness shoe company Gravity Defyer shows how the company uses Facebook to promote its brand as well as directly talk to customers for customer service.

“I feel like Facebook made it easier for the customer to have a voice and have power, and so now big companies don't really have the right to do whatever they want. They have to own up to what the customers need, and I think that's kind of overall a good thing for everyone,” Megan Light, Social Media Marketing Manager, Gravity Defyer, says in the case study.

“Our efforts have definitely proven the value in being a company with an active social media presence, and we will definitely continue to test and improve our campaigns to help drive growth and revenue for our company,” Sarah Olea, Public Relations Manager, Gravity Defyer, said.


New Research Data: How to Title Your White Papers to Generate More Downloads From Best Prospects

(October 6, 2005)

White papers are a key element of many B2B companies’ inbound marketing strategies.

For this study, Liz Lightfoot CNET Networks B2B Director of Business Intelligence, allowed MarketingSherpa’s research team exclusive access to CNET's Business Technology Trax tool, and in this article, you’ll learn three key “ah-ha” discoveries, top five rules for white paper success and top four white paper title mistakes to avoid.


Inbound Marketing: How a software company generated 190% more leads with a small budget

(June 13, 2012)

It doesn’t necessarily take a big budget to achieve inbound marketing success, David Kirkpatrick reports in this case study of U.K.-based online recruitment software company Firefish.

“The Internet is democratizing the marketplace for many industries. It’s no longer about who has the biggest budget to spend on expensive advertising campaigns. Instead, potential clients are making decisions based on the quality and authenticity of information they are finding online,” Ailsa Partridge, Online Marketing Executive, Firefish, said.

 “I looked back and said there is no way that this business is actually going to survive if I don’t do inbound,” said Wendy McDougall, CEO, Firefish.


Marketing Research Chart: Conversion rates on organic traffic

(October 29, 2013)

A key benefit of inbound marketing is attracting motivated potential customers who have started to get to know the story of your brand and trust your company.

As a result, they tend to convert at a high rate.

Some industries do better than others, however, as we saw in this chart, with Media or Publishing (online or offline) and Marketing Agency or Consultancy companies averaging 20% conversion rates.


B2B Marketing: Content strategy results in 50% of qualified leads being inbound

(October 28, 2015)

This case study by Kayla Cobb about LENOX (a division of Newell Rubbermaid) showed this brand transferred the responsibility of lead generation and qualification from Sales to Marketing.

Inbound marketing was a key element of the strategy. "Without good content, you don't get anybody in the hopper," Matthew Lacroix, Director of Brand Marketing, Newell Rubbermaid (LENOX), said.


And now for a bonus inbound marketing article from one of the earliest mentions of inbound on MarketingSherpa …

How Print Book Publisher FEDweek Makes 70% of Sales via Email Marketing

(September 20, 2000)

Before there was inbound marketing “the software,” there was inbound marketing “the marketing tactic.”

In this early article on MarketingSherpa, Don Mace shared his strategy for using an email newsletter combined with a 24/7 inbound telemarketing firm to take orders.

Even back in 2000 before the explosion of content marketing, this company really understood the key fundamental that drives a successful inbound marketing campaign. “I’ve heard so many times from competitors that if you’re giving away content free you don’t need to worry about quality. That’s absolutely not true. There’s so much competition now that it’s the opposite!” staffer Kevin Couch said.


Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Quick Guide to Inbound Marketing for B2B — 10 tips to attract and engage your audience in a helpful (not salesy) way

Email Messaging on-demand course from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa)

MarketingSherpa Quick Guide to Lead Generation — 8 content, social media and webinar tactics to boost lead volume

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